By Milton D Lein of the Juventud de Izquierda Revolucionaria group in Venezuela
In recent speeches [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chávez has sharply attacked the autonomy of the trade unions with respect to the government and the state. “The trade unions should not be autonomous... that has to be done away with‚” he stated.
This hostile rhetoric comes as Chávez calls for the construction of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and is directed against the proposal of trade-union autonomy made by various union leaders, among them the class struggle current C-CURA, led by Orlando Chirino.
Chávez even went so far as to call them‚ “counterrevolutionary‚” and “social-traitors”, in an outright offensive against the trade-union organisations with the aim of subordinating them to the government’s programme.
One of the most important social and political dynamics in Venezuela exists within the important sectors of the workers’ movement. This has been demonstrated especially since mid-2006 in the “anti-bureaucracy rebellion” at the Second Congress of the National Workers’ Union (UNT) [in 2006], in the rejection of the old bureaucratic leadership in the unions, as well as in important struggles for salary increases and improvements in working conditions.
An example has been the struggle of the Sanatarios Maracay factory workers, who have cast aside the old union leaders and for months have maintained the occupation and production in the factory under worker management while demanding expropriation without compensation by the government. In the midst of this struggle, the C-CURA was created and brought together the best elements of this important vanguard.
The birth of these tendencies has been particularly worrisome to the government and the bureaucrats, which have sought at all costs to take control of the UNT and the rest of the unions and have even encouraged the division and weakening of the federation. Unable to control the unions as they please, they now openly attack their autonomy. Each of these policies of the government aims to better control the workers’ movement and to limit its struggles in the interest of ‚ “national development” with the transnationals and “nationalist” business leaders.
At present, together with the fallacy of “going beyond demands” and the “Labour Councils”, Chávez seeks to draw the workers into an organic relationship with the government in order to suffocate and marginalise any militant and class-conscious tendencies.
This is a central part of Chávez’s programme. He left no room for doubt in the first meeting of PSUV organisers when he stated that the unions should not be autonomous, not even from the government. The aim is to combat the class independence of the workers’ movement so that its struggles do not hinder “socialism with business leaders”.
We consider it to be a serious political error on the part of C-CURA’s leadership when they voted a few months back to enter the PSUV, as this runs in direct opposition to the struggle for trade-union autonomy. As Chirino himself recognised in April, this option is exhausted now that Chávez has redoubled his attack against union autonomy.
We propose the creation of a determined campaign in the C-CURA unions for the absolute autonomy of the trade-union organisation from the bosses, the government and the state. This would, above all, mean the rejection of every type of disciplining by the government and the reversal of the C-CURA vote to participate in the formation of the PSUV.
• Abridged from www.ft-ci.org/article.php3?id_article=770
Mansour Osanloo, president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company in Iran was last week sentenced to five years in prison, according to the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI), based in Canada.
On 28 May, a Tehran “revolutionary court” sentenced Osanloo to four years imprisonment for‚ “acting against national security‚” and one year for “propaganda against the system”. According to Osanloo’s lawyer, the verdict has been given on the phone, but no official announcement has yet been made. Osanloo and his lawyers will have 20 days to appeal the verdict.
Other worker activists continue to be imprisoned in Iran. Mahmoud Salehi, the former President of the Bakery Workers’ Association of the City of Saqez and a well-known labour activist in Iran, reported last week that his kidney problem was becoming extremely painful and his blood pressure has fallen considerably. Salehi was imprisoned in April following the final verdict on his May Day 2004 case.
• Letters of protest can be sent via the IASWI website. http://www.workers-iran.org/News